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and Japanese Sword Fittings 
in the Collection of the 
Cooper-Hewitt Museum 

The Smithsonian 
Institution's National 
Museum of Design 



3000-200 B.C. (approx.) 


200 B.C.-300 A.D. (approx.) 

Tiimulus (Dolmen) 











Mid-Late Muromachi 








© 1980 by the Smithsonian Institution 

All rights reserved 

Library of Congress Catalogue No. 80-67169 

Designed by 
Gottschalk + Ash Ltd. 



I SEP 2 6 1979 .,; 

and Japanese Sword Fittings / 

in the Collection of the Cooper-Hewitt Museum 

The Smithsonian Institution's National 
Museum of Design 


The collection of Japanese tsuba and sword 
fittings at tfie Cooper-Hewitt Museum was 
bequeattied by George Cameron Stone in 1936. A 
collector of Oriental arms and armor, Mr Stone 
specialized, particularly in his later years, in the 
study of Japanese weaponry. His monumental 
Glossary of the Construction, Decoration, and Use 
of Arms and Armor in All Countries and All Times 
(1934) is still considered a major reference work 
decades after its initial publication. 

There are over twelve hundred items in 
the Cooper-Hewitt Collection, spanning the twelfth 
to the nineteenth centuries. Many of the major 
tsuba schools are represented; however, the 
emphasis is clearly placed on those of the last two 
hundred years. The collection, like most Western 
accumulations, touches the iron fitting makers of 
the seventeenth century and nicely represents the 
tastes, interests, and state of Western knowledge 
in the early twentieth century. A number of 
unusual, even unique, metalworking techniques 
brought to heights of perfection by the Japanese 
are well documented in the Stone collection. The 
availability of this material for students and art 
lovers provides a glimpse of a fascinating 
sculptural style. 

This catalogue, made possible through 
the generosity of the Charles E. Merrill Trust, 
briefly describes the work of many major schools 
of tsuba artists. While space limitations prevent 
full discussion and prohibit mention of every 
school and artist of merit, it is hoped that the 
descriptions will stimulate interest in this remark- 
able and little-known art form. 

Lisa Taylor 
Cooper-Hewitt Museum 



Omote (Front) 
faces the tiilt 

Ura (Back) 

Hira (Body) 

Kozuka Hitsu-ana 



Interest in the Japanese sword has occupied stu- 
dents and collectors of sculptural art and metal- 
lurgy for hundreds of years. The earliest Japanese 
chronicles, which purport to describe the begin- 
nings of Japanese civilization, tell of a magical 
sword which was plucked from the tail of a dra- 
gon by the god Susano-0. The sword, with the 
jewel and the mirror, is still considered one of the 
three sacred items of the Imperial regalia. From 
this legendary beginning, the history of the sword 
and its decoration has been elucidated with 
increasing clarity by succeeding generations of 

Through the long and convoluted history 
of Japan, the military sword has persisted as a 
major symbol of power, wealth, and beauty. No 

nation on earth has expended such energy on the 
production of swords as has Japan, and none has 
ever approached the remarkable results of that 
effort. For more than a thousand years individual 
sword-makers presented Japanese warriors with 
entirely hand-crafted, highly polished blades, 
the characteristics of which changed through 
the years to accommodate the changing styles 
of warfare. 

The bearers of these weapons were the 
samurai (one who serves), the hereditary warrior 
caste which evolved during the tenth and eleventh 

centuries; the samurai maintained their consider- 
able influence until the middle of the nineteenth 
century. The samurai's military virtues — loyalty, 
bravery, endurance, obedience and stoicism — 
vi^ere codified into a stern ethic that became 
known as the "way of the warrior" (bushido). 
This code stressed contempt for any pursuit but 
that of developing excellence in warfare, particu- 
larly in the use of the sword. Samurai devoted 
their lives to serving their lords, and perfected 
their swordsmanship to that end . Individual 
heroism and feats of bravery were celebrated, and 
the concept of death before dishonor was instilled 
in the warrior psyche. The sword of the samurai 
was an object of veneration, since it represented 
his honor as a soldier. Its fittings, particularly the 
tsuba (sword guard), also achieved symbolic 

In early periods of Japanese sword- 
smithing, the greatest emphasis was put on 
simplicity and practical effectiveness, and the 
sword and its fittings were modified to conform to 
current methods of warfare. The battles of the 
Heian period, fought with long curved spears and 
flights of arrows, were decided in combat with 
long single-edged swords (tachi) carried in a 
scabbard slung by cords from the warrior's belt. 
By the tenth century, the sword blade, originally 

straight, had largely been replaced by curved 
blades of magnificent steel. Tsuba of iron or unre- 
fined copper bore simple, but often elegant, deco- 
ration. Samurai of the period wore loosely hang- 
ing suits of armor, constructed of strips of iron 
and leather held together by thongs of leather or 
brightly colored strips of silk. Armor, helmets and 
horses' trappings were often ornately decorated 
with precious metals and lacquer. 

In the late thirteenth and fourteenth 
centuries, fighting techniques changed after 
two invasions of Japan had been launched from 
the Asian mainland. The massed infantry of Kublai 
Khan's Mongol invaders showed the inadequacy 
of single challenge combat. Both in 1274 and 1281 
the tide of battle was turned against the Mongols 
by violent, providential storms rather than by the 
defender's superior armies. 

Gradually the sword changed again in 
style from the tachi to the katana, which was 
carried in a scabbard thrust through the sash 
rather than hung from the belt. Though some 
were very long, katana, like tactii, were generally 
about two and a half feet in length. Easier to draw 
than the tactii, they were just as deadly, capable of 
cutting completely through enemy armor The 
tsuba, particularly those made for this sword, 
were sometimes made lighter by perforations that 
evolved into decorative elements, and the use of 
copper alloys provided an expanded palette of 

By the time fears of another Mongol inva- 
sion had subsided the central government was 
bankrupt, and the nation was gradually engulfed 
by a series of civil wars from the early fourteenth 
century until final unification in 1615. Tsuba pro- 
duced during this period of heavy military activity 
were made of either iron or soft metals: their 

strong decorative elements suited the needs of the 
restrained but powerful samurai for whom they 
were made. 

When peace came, however, tsuba mak- 
ing was carried out by rapidly proliferating schools 
of technically expert artisans whose production 
was seldom intended for use in warfare. The 
decorative styles of eighteenth-century tsuba 
matched their peaceful use; ornamentation of the 
tsuba became an end in itself and the art deterior- 
ated. Although a few individuals and schools 
maintained the high standards of previous eras 
and produced magnificent works even in the twen- 
tieth century a general conversion of art to arti- 
sanship continued until the wearing of swords 
was banned by Imperial decree in 1871 , and the 
blades and fittings largely passed into the prov- 
ince of the scholar and collector. 




Japanese Swords and 
their Fittings 




Kashira Menuki Tsuba Seppa 

Menuki Fuchi 





It was the samurai's exclusive privilege to carry 
paired large and small (daisho) swords. Each of 
the two major types of long sword has a particular 
short sword which usually accompanied it. The 
tachi was worn with the dirk-like tanto, and the 
katana with the wakizashi, its shorter version. Fit- 
tings for the paired swords matched each other 
The sword blade was kept in a plain or 
decorated scabbard. The unpolished blunt tang 
(nakago) of the blade is inserted into a hollow 
wood hilt and fixed there with a peg (mekugi) that 
is slipped through matching holes in both. The 
blade is also fitted with a tsuba and sheathed in a 
scabbard (saya). The hilt and the scabbard are 

further decorated with small metal objects. Tsuba, 
hilt, scabbard and the small metal decorations 
constitute the koshirae, the complete mountings 
of a sword. 

Katana fittings differ from those of the 
tec/?/ sword, since the former was worn thrust 
through the samurai's sash, while the latter hung 
on cords for which additional attachments were 
required. In some cases, a different terminology 
is used for similar fittings. Katana fittings are as 

Hilt (tsuka) and Related Fittings 

Scabbard (Saya) 
and Related Fittings 

Tachi Fittings 

Among the earliest fittings to appear were the 
menuki. These are two in number and are 
fastened at either side of the hilt. Originally these 
fittings decorated the retaining pin which held 
the blade in place in the hilt. In addition to their 
decorative function, they also helped, by their 
slight projection above the rest of the hilt, to give 
the warrior a firmer grip. 

The ends of the hilt are capped by two 
metal ornaments of different shape, but whose 
surface workings are always matched. At one end 
of the hilt is a hollow pommel, the kashira, and at 
the end next to the tsuba is the band-like fuchi. 
Thus the fuchi and the kashira surround the two 
ends of the hilt and stabilize it. 

The hilt is constructed as follows: a cylin- 
drical piece of wood is cut in half, the interior hol- 
lowed to fit the tang of a particular blade, and a 
hole for the peg drilled to match that in the tang. 
The halves are then glued together and wrapped in 
same, the skin of a ray fish. The fuchi is fitted 
onto the open end which will receive the blade 
tang. The tang passes through a triangular hole in 
the fuchi, as it enters the hilt. The kashira is fitted 
around the closed end. The hilt and covering are 
then frequently wrapped in silk braid. The center 
of the braid length is held next to the fuchi, and its 
two ends are wound crisscross around the hilt; 
after passing through the kashira the braid is tied 
off. fi/lenuki are placed on top of the same , and 
under the silk braid when the hilt is wrapped, or 
they are sometimes pinned or glued in place. 

The scabbard is also made of two halves of a 
piece of wood , hollowed in this case to fit the 
blade. When the sword was not in use, the blade 
was housed in a simple wooden scabbard made 
specifically for it, and placed on a sword rack. 
When the sword was worn, its scabbard was 
most often of lacquer A retaining band some- 
times surrounds the scabbard's mouth (koiguchi) 
and an end cap (kojiri) decorates its tip. 

Two small implements were often inserted 
in slots in the scabbard after passing through 
matching slots in the tsuba. One is a small knife 
(kozuka), the handle of which is decorated. The 
term kozuka can refer either to the complete knife 
or to the hilt alone. The other implement, the 
skewer-like toga/, was probably used as a device 
to pin up the hair. 

The smaller fittings, also well-represented 
in the Cooper-Hewitt Collection, are all worthy of 
study Each is a jewel-like sculpture worked with 
great skill. Although these fittings are all small in 
scale, the artistry lavished on these tiny surfaces 
surpasses that reserved for the finest jewelry in 
other cultures. 

Several fittings for tachi swords are similar to 
those for the katana. On the scabbard are located 
fittings (ashi) which are used to hang the scab- 
bard from the waist. A strap or chain is passed 
through two fittings that encircle the scabbard, 
and is attached to the waist cord. These devices 
are often decorated in the same style as the other 
metal decorations of the scabbard. The tip end of 
the scabbard is enclosed by a metal cap or by the 
ishizuki, which is of variable length and some- 
times has projecting arms extending along the 
scabbard for six to eight inches. The hilt is tipped 
by a metal cap (kabuto-gane) that encloses the 
end of the hilt and is pierced to reveal the hilt's 
surface. A small hole in the metal cap is for a 
decorative sword-knot. Both types of swords have 
similar fittings on the hilt but neither the kozuka 
nor the kogai is carried in the tachi sword scab- 

Tsuba (Sword Guard) 

Tsuba-gata (Shapes) 




Stiitogi with Kutsura-gane 

Aoi with Inome 


The largest fitting, used with both types of sword, 
is the tsuba. This is a plate, usually about 1/16 to 
1/4 inch thick and Vk to 5 inches wide. The gen- 
eral construction of the tsuba, with the exception 
of the earliest styles, remained unchanged for a 
thousand years. Although its shape may be 
round, oval, square, many-sided or irregular, and 
its surface solid or pierced in positive or negative 
silhouette openwork, the basic form remained 

The tsuba served as the most important 
functional fitting and, due to its size and location, 
also had the greatest symbolic importance. It pro- 
tected the hand, helped to balance the sword, and 
was the most visible decorative object when the 
sword was worn. Inasmuch as the samurai 
usually wore two swords at all times, and would 
not be seen without them, the kinds of tsuba worn 
often depended upon the day's activity. One 
might, for example, prefer an iron guard for battle 
and a highly decorated soft metal guard for court 
use, although these distinctions were not invari- 
able. The samurai usually owned several tsuba 
and matching fittings for each blade, and changed 
them to suit mood or occasion. 

The front side of the tsuba {omote) faces the hilt 
and is generally more elaborately decorated than 
the reverse (uraj. A central triangular opening 
(nakago-ana) through which the sword tang pas- 
ses is surrounded by an oval elevation with a flat 
surface (seppa dal). It is here that the signature of 
the maker appears, on the front side. A pair of 
separate oval washers (seppa) encircle the tang on 
either side of the tsuba, covering the seppa dal. 

The ends of the central opening of the 
tsuba may be filled with copper plugs (sekigane) 
and the edges of the opening hammered to 
produce a perfect fit for the blade, leaving deep 

Oval or shaped openings may exist on 
either side of the seppa dai; the left one is for the 
passage of the kozuka on its way into the pocket 
in the scabbard and the other is for the kogai. 
Either or both may be absent. Two small holes 
(udenuki-ana) for the passage of tying cords may 
exist in the lower part of the tsuba. The rim 
(mimi) of the tsuba was made last, and its charac- 
teristics are helpful in classifying individual 

Since tsuba have been in use for fourteen 
centuries, and were created by the most skilled 
metalworkers, there exists today a rich heritage of 
these miniature sculptures. They embody a mul- 
titude of techniques and materials, including 
some alloys unknown to the rest of the world. 

many of which are to be found in the Museum 
collection. Variations in the other fittings have not 
been nearly as dramatic, so the study of tsuba 
provides particular insight into the artistic history 
of the sword fittings of Japan. 

The history of tsuba begins with Hoju, the 
oval copper-gilt sword guards, sometimes with 
trapezoidal, cut-out decoration, found in the burial 
mounds of the ancient Dolmen era (mid-4th to 
mid-7th century A.D.) These were later replaced 
by the shitogi type, named after the shape a rice 
cake would assume if squeezed in the hand. This 
style, first used in the Nara period (710-794) per- 
sisted for several hundred years, particularly for 
ceremonial purposes. 

Other tsuba styles evolved during the 
Heian period (794-1185). An unsuccessful 
attempt to improve the shitogi by adding side- 
rings (No. 1) was followed by a return to the flat 
disk. The most common early flat shapes were the 
four-petalled ao/, as well as simple circles and 

ovals. Hardened leather tsuba Cnen/(aiva^ were 
also used for a time. 

During the Kamakura era (1185-1333), 
some refinements in these simple flat tsuba were 
made, and decorations consisting largely of 
increasingly complex piercings, hammerings, and 
castings of unrefined copper appeared. 

By the beginning of the Muromachi period 
(1334-1573) decorated iron and soft metal (kinko) 
tsuba were being made. Copper bronze and vari- 
ous alloys were being utilized extensively. Two 
major styles of iron tsuba were being fashioned: 
katchushi, thought to have been made by armor- 
ers; and tosho, believed to have been the product 
of swordsmiths. Both are usually round, 3y2 to 5 

inches in diameter, and decorated with simple, 
openwork, negative silhouette designs of flowers, 
insects, and everyday objects. Armorer's tsuba 
usually have thin centers and raised rims, while 
the swordsmith's guards have thicker centers tap- 
ering to thin rims. 

The art of soft metal tsuba was greatly 
fostered by the development of two alloys: 
shakudo, composed primarily of copper and gold 
that produced, when suitably pickled, a deep, 
blue-black color; and shibuichi. primarily copper 
and silver, which yields a spectrum of hues from 
silver-grey to grey-brown. Early soft metal tsuba 
were primarily o^ shakudo, or of unrefined copper 
(yamagane). Their surfaces were sometimes left 
smooth but might be roughened or hammered; 
often small punched knobs added a texture that 
evolved into wide expanses of tiny elevated dots 
resembling fish me(nanako). 

Throughout the Muromachi period 
armorers and swordsmiths continued to pro- 
duce characteristic tsuba (Nos. 2,3), but as early 
as 1400 artists in the cities of Kamakura and 
Kyoto, and in Owari and other provinces, had also 

begun to create iron tsuba. Until the mid-fifteenth 
century iron tsuba had been primarily adorned 
with piercing and openwork; but the artists of 
Kamakura city produced tsuba with low relief carv- 
ing with minimal openwork. Toward the end of the 
century a group of tsuba makers in Kyoto began 
to inlay brass nails and wires into iron tsuba, their 
initially primitive designs later evolving into ele- 
gant brass inlay decoration. 

Many artists had been at work with soft 
metals during Muromachi, particularly using the 
shakudo alloy and unrefined copper As soft metal 
techniques advanced, these surfaces were inlaid 
with exquisite sculptures of men, gods, animals, 
and objects. Chasing, engraving and simple pierc- 
ing added to the decorative ensemble. Marvelous 
soft metal fittings appeared, especially in Kyoto 
and Mino province. At the end of the Muromachi 
period practically every method of working metal 
had been mastered; these techniques were refined 
during the succeeding Momoyama (1573-1615) 
and Edo (1616-1867) periods. It was during the 
Edo period that tsuba entered an exclusively 
decorative phase and a vast outpouring of sword 
fittings began to flood the country 

With the end of the Edo era, the Emperor 
Meiji undertook a vast program of modernization 
and banned the wearing of the sword. While a few 
great tsuba artists in private life or in court service 
continued to carry on their craft, Japan was hurry- 
ing into the twentieth century. Kimono were 
replaced by Western clothes, and outside forces 
began to work their changes on the hitherto 
homogeneous nation . The energy of the people 
turned to mass production and the expansion of 
territory and markets; less emphasis was placed 
on individual expression in daily life and the war- 
like arts. Although vestiges of craftsmanship 

remain, and a degree of rebirth of tliis and other 
ancient art forms appears to be at hand , the 
continuous evolution of the art of small metal 
sculpture represented by sword fittings came to 
an end. 

Makers of Sword Furnishings: 
IMajor Schools and Artists 

Iron Tsuba 


In Kyoto, beginning around 1400, these elegant, 
thin, black tsuba were made in a variety of 
designs, some combining positive and negative 
silhouettes. The earliest are sometimes called 
Heianjo-sukashi. after the original name of 
Kyoto— We/a/7 /(yo— "Capital of Peace and Tran- 
quility." Tsuba of this type were produced into 
modern times. Represented in the Cooper-Hewitt 
collection are classic designs of cranes, Buddhist 
prayer wheels, water under a bridge, plum blos- 
soms, and gourds, carved in positive silhouette 
openwork. (Nos. 4,5). The relatively long and nar- 
row oval seppa dai surrounding the central open- 
ing adds to their graceful appearance. 


During Muromachi and Momoyama, this school 
produced openworl< tsuba whose symmetry and 
sense of movement were greatly appreciated. The 
school attracted a vast army of students who 
spread throughout Japan, producing tsuba in a 
wide variety of styles. It has been said that 
perhaps ten percent of all tsuba were made by 
the Shoami. 

Initially somewhat smaller in size than previously 
mentioned types, these strongly defined open- 
work tsuba were made of excellent iron. The 
greatest artist of this school, Myoju, worked dur- 
ing the Momoyama period, producing exquisite 
inlays of soft metals into copper or nut-brown 


Tsuba were produced in Owari province from the 
Muromachi period into thie late seventeenth and 
early eighteenth centuries (No. 6). As was almost 
always true, the earlier creations are the purest 
and best examples of the school. Owari tsuba are 
generally extremely powerful in design and execu- 
tion, often symmetrical both top to bottom and 
side to side, have squared rims thicker than the 
body and a deep black patina. A mixture of differ- 
ent kinds of iron produced heavy, irregular bumps 
(tekkotsu) on the rim's edge. Tsuba of other 
schools may also have tekkotsu of varying charac- 
ter, a feature which may be helpful in identifying 
and classifying them. Owari tsuba are much 
prized today, their quiet strength seeming to 
embody the spirit of the samurai warrior. 



Rather large tsuba (often 3y2 inches in diameter) 
with naturalistic and geometric designs in very 
low relief, chased and engraved, were made in the 
town of Kamakura during the Muromachi and 
Momoyama periods. The surfaces of these thin 
tsuba were usually solid (No. 7), but later, motifs 
in negative silhouette were added. Their patina is 
more brown than that of the Kyoto and Owari 
province tsuba. 

This school, working in Owari province, produced 
similar, though less massive tsuba. The "purple 
iron of Kanayama" is justly famous. 

Inlaid Iron Tsuba 


The so-called Onin style developed during and 
after the end of the Onin era (1467-1468), so the 
style name does not entirely relate to the era. The 
iron used was of good quality and the brass inlay, 
due to its composition, has a characteristic deep 
yellow-brown color Onin designs are easily rec- 
ognized: initially brass nails were hammered into 
holes in the iron to form nail-head designs: later, 
brass wire was inlaid into precut channels to 
create complex naturalistic designs. A fine exam- 
ple of this technique (No. 8) is found in the 
Cooper-Hewitt collection. 


Perhaps a generation passed between the creation 
of the first Onin styles and the appearance in the 
Kyoto region of the more elaborate, brass-inlaid 
guards known as Heianjo tsuba (Nos. 9, 10). 
These were made throughout most of the six- 
teenth and into the seventeenth century. In con- 
trast to the Onin technique of inlay in which 
engraving in the brass preceded the inlaying, 
Heianjo engraving was generally done after the 
inlay was set in place. These technical differences 
and the more generous use of brass in the latter 
designs help to distinguish between the two. 


In the mid-sixteenth century, the art of brass inlay 
into iron reached its zenith in the work ot Koike 
Yoshiro Naomasa. He was among the first of the 
tsuba makers to sign his productions, and with 
good reason; his workmanship and artistry in this 
technique have never been surpassed. His tsuba 
are relatively large, with designs of vines, flowers 
and family crests. Unlike Onin and Heianjo style 
tsuba, Yoshiro inlay does not stand above the 
surface of the iron but is flat; the intricacy of inlay 

and smooth surface resemble painting more than 
inlay. Large schools of excellent artists worked in 
the Yoshiro style in the Momoyama and Edo eras 
(No. 11). 

Primarily Iron Tsuba of 
Late Momoyama and Edo 



As the Muromachi period drew to a close, the 
artistic pendulum began to swing toward a less 
severe expression of beauty The stern, simple 
designs of the men of Owari, and of the sword- 
smiths and armorers, were gradually superseded 
by designs whose specific purpose was to touch 
the eye as much as the heart. True artists 
appeared, one of whom — Koike Yoshiro Naomasa 
— has been mentioned. 

Kaneiye, one of the most famous tsuba artists of 
the Momoyama era, made the first signed, picto- 
rial, iron tsuba. These are superb, red-brown, 
solid iron guards, whose pastoral scenes are 
chased in low to medium relief and sparsely inlaid 
with gold and silver Oddly enough, though tsuba 
of the early years of this school are considered the 
epitome of the art today and were much in vogue 
when first made, they were out of favor within a 
short time of their production. The desire for soft 
metal tsuba in the early seventeenth century 
eclipsed the work of Kaneiye, and it was not until 
almost 1800 that these tsuba were fully apprecia- 
ted again . At that time there was such a 
resurgence of desire for the older, simpler ways 
among the warriors that had there been ten 
thousand of these tsuba in existence there would 
scarcely have been enough to fill the demand. Of 
course, by then there were only a few available, so 
the artisans of the day came to the rescue and 
turned out "Kaneiye" tsuba as fast as they could 
sign them. 

There appear to have been two major generations 
of Nobuiye artists, several contemporaneous pro- 
vincial schools, and many nineteenth- century 
copyists. Tsuba of the two major f\lobuiye masters 
were thick, with delicate tekkotsu in the rims; their 
grey-black to brown-black iron exhibited a lumi- 
nous surface. The artists produced charac- 
teristically deep engravings of flowers and vines, 
tortoise-shell patterns and other naturalistic 

A few other major artists, including 
Yamakichi and Hoan also signed tsuba during this 

Signed Iron Tsuba of Muromachi 
and Momoyama 

The excellent metalworking techniques achieved 
by the end of Muromachi were further refined with 
the passage of time. The schools of Kaneiye and 
Nobuiye were hard at work. The Shoami artists 
were spreading throughout the country eventually 
producing tsuba of every imaginable variety in 
over eighteen provinces, and great schools of 
armorers, particularly the Myochin and Saotome 
(No. 12), were in full production. It was not long 
before other large schools of tsuba makers 


From the end of Momoyama into early Edo. the 
feudal lord of Higo province patronized some of 
the greatest of all tsuba artists. Hirata Hikozo of 
Higo is known for guards of deep red-brown cop- 
per, engraved with designs of wave ripples, broad 
open hitsu-ana. and a variety of incised and inlaid 
styles. His "trademark" is a special added rim 
{Odowara fukurin) with its own simple decoration 
of dots and lines. 

The Nishigaki school was founded by 
Hikozo 's student Kanshiro. who produced prima- 
rily lustrous openwork iron tsuba, often of 
paulonia designs (No. 13). Sparse line engraving 
[kebori) is also found, as are rare examples in 
brass (No. 14). 

Shimizu Jingo and his school produced 
thick, strong, black iron tsuba inlaid with large 
patterns in brass. He is most famous for his fierce 

Hayashi MatashichI and his school pro- 
duced both openwork and inlaid tsuba. often 
using a marvelous double-wire scrolling tech- 
nigue. His work in this medium is approached 
only by Kamiyoshi Rakuju, who produced similar 
masterpieces in Higo at a later date. 

The Akasaka school 


Although no physical connection exists between 
the Akasaka masters of Edo city and the Higo 
masters in Kyushu, some Akasaka work is similar 
to that of Higo province. 

A Kyoto dealer and tsuba maker, Hikobei, 
moved to Edo with his best students in the mid- 
seventeenth century and founded the Akasaka 
school in the district of that name. The work of the 
first four Akasaka masters is strong, the earliest 
using their own designs. The addition of Higo 
designs to the original Akasaka styles created a 
varied style most appreciated in the mid-Edo era. 
There were eight generations of masters in this 

By the end of the eighteenth century the 
characteristic Akasaka style had disappeared, and 
the work of later Akasaka artists can scarcely be 
differentiated from other contemporary schools 
(No. 15). 

The founder of the school, Kitagawa Soten, was a 
resident of the town of Hikone in Omi province in 
the late seventeenth century Soten adapted the 
style of carving iron figures in the round (maru- 
bori). producing highly pictorial tsuba decorated 
with excellent inlay His subjects were taken from 
old paintings, frequently of battles, and are treated 
with great attention to detail . His work was so well 
received that large numbers of copies were made 
in the nineteenth century, all signed with his name 
(No. 16). 




Jakushi (died 1707) was a painter turned tsuba 
maker, and a resident of Nagasaki. His classic 
works are Chinese landscapes with mountain 
villages and seashores, carved of fine iron in very 
low relief with gold cresting the hills and highlight- 
ing other areas. The inlay was applied using a 
characteristic nunomezogan ("cloth inlay") tech- 
nique (No. 17). His school continued into the 
nineteenth century 

At the end of Momoyama, the Kinal and other 
schools were active in Echizen province. Founded 
byTakahashi Kinai, this school produced jet- 
black, glowing iron tsuba carved in relief and posi- 
tive silhouette openwork. Common designs 
include dragons, hollyhocks, and other flowers 
and grass, typified by a fine example in the 
Museum's collection (No. 18). 


At least eight families were at work from the 
seventeenth century onward in Choshu province 
(now Nagato prefecture), of which the Nakai was 
the first. Choshu designs were worked in three 
styles: openwork carving in the round; low relief 
with chasing and flat inlay; and high and low relief 
without inlay, including elaborate designs that 

cover the entire surface of the tsuba (Nos. 19, 
20a, b) using motifs of animals, birds, dragons, 
and Chinese landscapes, among others. High 
relief inlay was used in later years. 




The Ito school originated with Ito IVIasatsugu 
around 1600 in the town of Odowara. A descen- 
dant, IVlasatsune, moved to Edo city (later Tokyo) 
where ten generations of Ito masters sub- 
sequently worked. The "thread piercing" decora- 
tive technique (Ito-sukashi) commonly associated 
with this school is a method of piercing the tsuba 
with incredibly fine saw cuts to form pictorial 
designs (No. 21). Other styles include low relief 
landscape carving, and carving in the round. Sev- 
eral schools, including the Ito, also produced soft 
metal fittings, using the mokume (wood grain) 
technique (No. 22) and guriborl, a metallic imita- 
tion of carved layered lacquer (No. 23). The Ito in 
Edo were among a number of schools producing 
similar work; collectively these schools are 
referred to as the Bushu schools. 



The arrival of westerners in Japan during the 
seventeenth century, and the subsequent conver- 
sion of a number of samurai to Christianity, gave 
rise to a type of iron tsuba called Namban (south- 
ern barbarian), a term that refers to people and 
things of foreign origin. Although the style origi- 
nated in the seventeenth century most examples 
are from the nineteenth. They were probably first 
made around the port city of Nagasaki where 
most of the European traders were sequestered; in 
later years the style was produced in many areas. 
There are three common types: those with a cross 
prominently displayed; those with carvings of 
foreigners or foreign motifs; and those having a 
woven texture or design of overlapping and 

intertwined iron cords (No. 24). somewhat 
resembling European sword guards. Early Nam- 
ban tsuba are rare, since many were destroyed 
during two centuries of repression of Christianity. 

other Edo Period Ironworkers 

Many other primarily ironwork schools were ac- 
tive during the Edo period . For the most part they 
produced interesting and varied designs, usually 
in openwork, with sparse inlay Among those 
found in the Cooper-Hewitt Collection are those of 
the Sunagawa (No. 25) and others produced by 
artists of Hizen and Mito provinces (Nos. 26, 27). 

Mention might be made of Edo period 
brass-decorated tsuba made for export, or for 
some wearers of swords whose aesthetic stan- 
dards had declined. Bits of brass wire were inlaid 
into early or late iron guards in patterns that 
mimicked pine needles in water (gomokuzogan). 
Brass wire was wound around the cores of other 
iron tsuba (shingen) to create intricate woven pat- 
terns (No. 28), or sometimes curved brass wires 
were hammered into the guards in centipede-like 
designs (mukade) . 


Early Kinko Tsuba 


Irogane ko tsuba 


While the iron tsuba of the Heian, Kamal<ura and 
Muromachi periods were being produced, artists 
were also creating soft metal tsuba. By the end of 
Muromachi, strikingly colored and inlaid soft 
metal fittings had appeared, particularly in Kyoto 
and in Mino province. The classification of these 
artists is still in a state of flux. 

The earliest soft metal tsuba, including those fash- 
ioned from the ancient periods, are included in this 
group. Artists who produced soft metal fittings, 
mainly oiyamagane to be used with the tachi type 
of sword, are called tachi kanagushi (tachi fitting 
maker). Muromachi soft metal workers who used 
primarily the "luxury" alloys made with precious 
metals, such as shakudo, are called ko-kinko. All 
the succeeding schools of soft metal workers 
evolved from these unknown craftsmen. 

Small bronze mirrors, probably first of Chinese 
and Korean, and later, Japanese origin have been 
found in burial mounds. From the Heian period 
beautifully decorated mirrors inspired by T'ang 
dynasty (618-907 A.D.) imports had been pro- 
duced by kagamishi (mirror makers). It was 
probably inevitable that the shape of these flat, 
decorative, bronze discs should be associated 
with the similar size and shape of the tsuba. In the 
Muromachi period tsuba were made (probably in 
the mirror maker's foundries) in precisely the style 
of the old mirrors (No. 29). These were usually of 
cast bronze and yamagane. Unlike the old mir- 
rors, one side of which was smoothly polished, 
kagamishi tsuba were decorated on both sides. 

Kinko Tsuba Schools 

The application of the ancient soft metal tech- 
niques was advanced by improvements in tools 
and the use of varied alloys and metals. To the 
blue-black of shakudo and the silver greys and 
browns of shibuichi were added the colors of 
gold, silver, copper, lead and bronze, giving the 
Japanese metalworker an unsurpassed range of 
hues and tints to be used in decorating the tsuba. 

The surface into which the artist inlaid 
colored pictures could be smooth or textured. 
Several techniques of texturing the surface were 
in use: hammering and gouging {tsushime); 
roughening {ishime); and punching regular ele- 
vated dots over the surface (nanako). Inlay tech- 
niques included nunomezogan, called "cloth 
inlay" due to the fact that a thin sheet of inlay was 
hammered into a cross-hatched surface resem- 
bling fabric, and hon zogan , a true inlay technique 
in which the inlaid material was inserted into pre- 
cut channels, the edges of which were then ham- 
mered back over the inlay True inlays could be 
flat, or might project above the surface of the 
tsuba. Chiselling and chasing techniques include 
both sunken and raised relief. Chisel cuts with one 
vertical and one sloped edge (katakiri) were made 
to resemble calligraphic brush strokes, while sim- 
pler engraving was used as well. Several tech- 
niques of surface piercing were used; negative 
silhouette openwork could be limited to a small 
area; or the entire tsuba could be pierced to create 
both negative and positive silhouette patterns. 





The importance of the Goto family in the devel- 
opment of the soft metal arts from the end of 
Muromachi up to the twentieth century cannot be 
overestimated. There were sixteen masters in the 
main line of the family and almost three hundred 
others in the eight branches (Nos. 30, 31, 32, 
33, 34). The main line of masters wo'ked for 
the court and, with few exceptions, made only 
soft metal fittings. Every kinko school after 
Muromachi was influenced by the Goto to some 
extent and large numbers of copies exist. Most 
of the copies are inferior to the jewel-like work 
of the Goto masters. 

The main line, called Goto Shirobei, was 
founded by Masaoku (1439-1512), later known as 
Yujo. He fashioned beautiful small fittings of 

shakudo and gold. Perfectly sculpted decorations, 
including lions and heraldic symbols were placed 
on the deep, black surfaces of the fittings which 
were given added texture with minute raised dots 
[nanako). The nanako technique, used in less 
refined form from the earliest eras, was brought 
to its peak of excellence by the Goto. No tsuba are 
known to have been made by the first four Goto, 
but subsequent generations made both small fit- 
tings and sword guards. Goto work for the court 
was called "family carving" (iyebori). as opposed 
to "town carving" {machiboh) produced by other 
local artists. 

Although the fame of the Goto Shirobei 
rested on the original formula of shakudo back- 
ground, textured with nanako on which was 
applied gilt and inlaid decoration, one of the 
greatest Goto, named Ichijo (1791-1876), pro- 
duced a great variety of fittings, including some 
iron tsuba; these were signed with various 
pseudonyms because of the Goto proscription 
against iron. However, Ichijo 's most beautiful 
work was in soft metal, with naturalistic scenes 
rendered in exquisite detail. Ichijo also produced 
many excellent and well-trained students whose 
work is of great interest (No. 35). 


Examples of cloisonne enamel had been imported 
from Cfiina by the seventeenth century; this tech- 
nique was used as a decorative element on sw^ord 
fittings shortly thereafter. The Hirata school, 
founded by Dojin (also called Donin, died 1646), 
produced the finest w/orks of this type until the late 
nineteenth century. Copper alloys, iron and other 
metals w/ere used as the base, and cloisons, 
usually of gold , were affixed to small areas of the 
surface and filled with enamel. Designs included 
Buddhist symbols, birds and figures. Early 
enamel was largely opaque, but Donin developed 
a striking translucent enamel which, by the 
eighteenth century, became characteristic of the 
school (No. 36). 


Among the many students of the Goto, none are 
more important than the Yokoya. There is some 
question about the actual identity of the first mas- 
ter of the school, but it is believed to have been 
Soyo, a Goto pupil in the mid-seventeenth cen- 
tury. Both he and his famous adopted son Somin 
worked in the classic Goto style, with high relief 
inlays on a shakudo nanako surface. The Yokoya 
school is best known, however, for pictorial 
engravings which imitated the brush strokes of 
contemporary painters. Somin popularized his 
technique after leaving the Shogun's court and 
breaking away from the Goto stringencies. He 
was the classic example of the "town carving" 
tradition, and his work reduced the dominance of 
the work done at court. Somin made small fittings 
and some tsuba, frequently decorated with lions, 
Chinese figures and gods. 


Yanagawa Naomasa (1691-1757) of Edo was the 
founder of the Yanagawa school, which was active 
through the nineteenth century. Fittings with 
extensive inlaid decoration in high relief were typi- 
cal of the school. Also noteworthy was their picto- 
rial soft metal work, of which a typical example is 
found in the Cooper-Hewitt Collection (No. 37). 
Early Yanagawa fittings are similar to those of the 
Goto school since the artists were strongly influ- 
enced by the Yokoya, students of the Goto. As 
was the case with most tsuba schools, nineteenth 
century production was dominated by craftsman- 
ship rather than art, and exeedingly gaudy fit- 
tings were the result. Two other schools, the 
Haruaki and the Tanaka, followed the Yanagawa, 
producing their own varieties of pictorial soft 
metal fittings, some of their early work of the 
highest quality. 




Another of the schools influenced by the Yokoya, 
the Omori is among the few in which later masters 
far outshone the founder. The fifth Omori master, 
Teruhide (1729-1798) originated the technique of 
undercut waves which flowed across the surface 
of the fittings (No. 38). He also perfected the art 
of inlaying tiny gold dots {haze) into the surface to 
resemble the spattered-gold decoration seen on 

Together with the Goto and the Yokoya, the Nara 
school set the standards of Edo period sword fit- 
tings. Although early Nara work may have been 
done in Kyoto in the sixteenth century the main- 
line school originated in the seventeenth century 
with Toshiteru, who made iron tsuba at the Sho- 
gun's court. Toshiteru, and eight subsequent mas- 
ters and many students, produced creditable 
work. The main line, however, was eclipsed by 
three of the greatest artists in the history of sword 
fittings: Toshinaga, Joi, and Yasuchika; these 
three masters are called the /Vara sansaku. 
Toshinaga (1667-1737) produced bold, high relief, 
solid and fully-carved tsuba with elaborate atten- 
tion to detail. He used iron at first, but later added 
soft metal to his armamentarium. While 
Toshinaga was producing his masterpieces, a 
young man some thirty-three years his junior 
arrived in Edo and studied under the master This 
was Sugiura Joi, who soon began to develop his 
own personal technique of low relief carving on 
slightly concave tsuba while he was still under the 
tutelage of the master whose style was so differ- 
ent from his own. 

The name of the last of the three Nara 
artists, Yasuchika, probably heads the list of 
the greatest artists of sword fittings. When 
Yasuchika, born in Shonai in 1670, arrived in Edo, 
the leading artists were the Goto at court and 
Somin in the town . Both looked upon iron as vul- 
gar It was Yasuchika, perhaps more than any 
other artist, who broke the established rules by 
producing major, pictorial, inlaid brass and iron 
tsuba. He combined the soft metal work of the 
Goto and Yokoya with a wide variety of subjects in 
many techniques, and was as comfortable work- 
ing in iron as in soft metal. Classic Yasuchika sub- 
jects include birds in the rain, representations of 
Kano style paintings, animals, and people. The 
master died in 1744. 

The Hamano of Edo, the most prominent of the 
schools influenced by the three Nara masters, 
originated with Masayuki (1695-1769), later called 
Shozui. A pupil of Toshinaga, he worked in iron 
and soft metal, depicting a variety of subjects and 
especially mythological and battle scenes. The 
large Hamano family worked into the nineteenth 
century, and produced many excellent pictorial 
works in both high and low relief (Nos. 39, 40). 
The Iwama and Hata families followed the 
Hamano style of high relief work. 


The inlay Schools — Kaga and Awa 

Although inlay work was produced by every soft 
metal school, the artists of Kaga province in Hon- 
shu and Awa province in Shikoku are famous for 
their extensive use of this decorative technique. 
Awa artists produced two styles of tsuba. In the 
first, openwork designs taken from nature were 
highlighted with extensive flat inlay of gold wire 
and leaf. The other style (found in much Shoami 
work) made generous use of gold or copper 
nunomezogan (No. 41) on iron or brass. A large 
area of a tsuba, for example, might be covered by 
a single inlaid dragon design. The artists of Awa 
also produced tsuba called ken/o that were fre- 
quently used as gifts among officials. This style, 
originating with the artist Jiuchiya in Kyoto, was 
also followed in Kaga. The surfaces of these tsuba 
were practically covered in flat gold "cloth inlay" 
in floral patterns or other designs (No. 42). 

Several schools worked in Kaga, Some 
tsuba were made here by Goto artists commis- 
sioned by the Daimyo of Kaga, and are typical 
Goto high relief inlay on textured stiakudo. Most 
Kaga fittings, however, are of the true inlay (hon 
zogan) variety, which was first used in Kaga for 
decorating armor and iron stirrups. Kaga work 
often used designs of insects and flowers inlaid 
with metals of different colors. Their technique 
results in a somewhat sharper inlay than that of 
Awa (No. 43). 




The founder of this school was Nagatsune (1722- 
1786), an artist who rivalled Somin and the Nara 
masters as the greatest "town carver" of the 
eighteenth century. His most notable tsuba, made 
In his early days, were large senfo/ru (brass alloy) 
guards with carved and inlaid pictures, often of 
hunting scenes. These were often In high relief, 
and were signed with the name "Setsuzan." Later 
In his career he produced smaller Inlaid and 
engraved soft metal tsuba. 


Konkwan (1743-1801) was the finest of the 
Iwamoto artists who produced excellent soft 
metal work in Edo during the eighteenth century 
He is well known for his designs of marine life and 
figures, of which the Museum collection has fine 
examples (Nos. 44a, b). 


The founder of tfiis famous offsfioot of fhe 
Yanagawa scfiool was Ishiguro Masatsune 
(1760-1823). He developed a crisp relief inlay of 
multicolored metals on various grounds (No. 45). 
Typical Ishiguro subjects are game birds and flow- 
ers. The Ishiguro style attracted many students 
and a large school was active until Meiji times. 


During the Momoyama period, the Daimyo of 
Mito in the Hitachi province imported a number of 
artists from Kyoto. These artists were joined by 
others from Edo and elsewhere during the 
eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. A number of 
schools developed in Mito, but while some cre- 
ative and admirable soft metal work was produced 
there (Nos . 46 , 47) , many of the workers were 
simply copyists responsible for the clever 
forgeries of the works of well-known artists. 
Indeed, by the nineteenth century this vocation 
had become common in many areas. The 
foremost artist of the Mito , Unno Shomin , left 
early in his career to work for the Meiji court into 
the early twentieth century. 



Kano Natsuo, probably the most distinguished of 
the late nineteenth century masters, lived from 
1828-1898. Bom in Kyoto, he derived many 
designs from the Maruyama school of painting. 
For eight years he was designer of the new Meiji 
coins for the Osaka mint. Later he became profes- 
sor of metalwork at the Tokyo school of art. His 
work was quite varied, but is characterized by a 
three dimensional effect produced by engraving, 
surface carving, and high relief inlay Many of his 
designs have the "stop motion" effect of having 
been captured by a camera; flowers blowing in the 
wind, fish leaping from water, and many other 
such subjects added to his fame. Certainly it is fit- 
ting that this brief discussion of tsuba and their 
makers should end with Natsuo, one of the 
greatest masters of the art. 

Dr Henry Rosin 


Bowes, Sir James, Notes on Shippo: A Sequel to 
Japanese Enamels, Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., 
Ltd., London, 1895. 

CaldweN, Randolph B, (editor), The Book of ttie Sword, 
Token KenkyuKai, Dallas, 1972. 

Church, Sir Arthur, Japanese Sword Guards: Sonne 
Tsuba in the Collection of Sir Arthur H. Church, 
Reading, England, 1914. 

Gunsaulus, Helen C. , Japanese Sword Mounts In the 
Collection of the Field Museum. Field Museum of 
Natural History, Publication 216; Anthropological Series, 
V.16, Chicago, 1923. 

Hara, Shinkichi, Die Melster der Japanlschen 
Schwertzleraten, Verlag des Museums fUr Kunst und 
Gewerbe, Hamburg, 1931. 

Joly, Henri L., Walter L. Behrens Collection Catalogue, 
part III, Glendinning & Co. Ltd., London, 1913-1914; 
reprinted Paragon, New York, 1966. 

Japanese Sword Fittings: A Descriptive Catalogue of 
the Collection ofG.H. Naunton, Esq., Tokio Printing 
Co., Reading, England, 1912 (private printing); reprinted 
Los Angeles, 1973. 

Japanese Sword-Mounts: A Descriptive Catalogue of 
the Collection ofJ.C. Hawkshaw, London, 1910. 

Legend In Japanese Art, J. Lane Co., London and New 
York, 1908; reprinted Rutland, Vermont, and Tokyo, 

Shosankenshu, Holland Press, London, 1963. 

Kidder, Jonathan E. Early Japanese Art, Princeton, 
New Jersey, 1964. 

Mosie, Alexander G. , Japanese Works of Art, Armour, 
Weapons. Sword Fittings, Lacquer, Pictures. Textiles. 
Colour-Prints Selected From The Mosie Collection. 
Portfolio 1, E.A. Seemann, Leipzig, 1914. 

"The Sword Ornaments of the Goto Shirobei Family," 
Minutes of the Japan Society, London, December 9, 

Okabe, Kakuya, Japanese Sword Guards, Museum of 
FineArts, Boston, 1908. 

Robinson, Basil William, The Arts of the Japanese 
Sword, Rutland, Vermont, 1961. 

Robinson, H. Russell, Japanese Arms and Armour, 
New York, 1969. 

Rucker, Robert H.,The Goda Collection of Japanese 
Sword Fittings in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New 
York, 1924. 

Sansom, Sir George B.,A History of Japan. 3 vols. , 
New York, 1949; reprinted Cresset Press, London, 1964. 

Sasano, Masayuki, Early Japanese Sword Guards: 
Sukashi Tsuba. Japan Publications Inc., San Francisco, 

Tosogu no kigen: The Origins of Japanese Sword 
Fittings (in Japanese), Tokyo, 1979; (private printing). 

Stern, Harold B..The Magnificent Three: Lacquer. 
Netsuke. and Tsuba, New York, 1972. 

Stone, George C..A Glossary of the Construction, 
Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor. Southworth 
Press, Portland, Maine, 1934; reprinted Jack Brussel, 
New York, 1961. 

Yumoto, John M..The Samurai Sword: A Handbook. 
Rutland, Vermont, 1959. 



Tsuba style; shaped like four heart-shaped leaves. 


Fittings encircling tachi scabbard for attaching hanging 


Literally, "way of the warrior"; the ethical code of the 


Literally, "large-small"; the two paired swords of the 
samurai, or paired fittings for the swords. 


Flat metal band which encircles the sword hilt at the 
tsuba end. 


Separate rim around the tsuba edge. 

Gomoku zogan 

Literally, "dirt inlay"; brass wire mimicking floating pine 

Guri bori 

Metalworking technique, imitating Guri lacquer; thin 
sheets of fused metals of different color are cut in 
V-shaped grooves, exposing colored layers. 


Inlaying of tiny gold dots. 


Openings in a tsuba for passage of kozuka and kogai- 


Ancient, oval, copper-gilt tsuba style. 

Hon zogan 

"True inlay" technique; one metal is hammered into 
channels in another. 


Metalworking technique which produces rough, stone- 
like surface. 


Metal end cap enclosing the tip of a tachi scabbard. 


"Thread piercing"; metal openwork technique employing 
fine saw cuts. 

lye bori 

"Family carving"; refers to the Goto who worked for the 


The decorated strip of the kozuka or kogai, often made 


Metal pommel of a tachi sword hilt. 

Kagamishi tsuba 

Mirror-maker's tsuba. 

Kamakuri bori 

Low relief carving style used in and around Kamakura 


Metal pommel of a katana sword. 


Curved, single-edged sword worn edge up in a scabbard 
thrust through the sash. Usually paired with wakizashi. 


Iron tsuba with thin centers and raised rims, probably 
the products of armorers. 



Kenjo tsuba 

Usually unsigned, extensively decorated inlaid tsuba, 
made mainly in the Kyoto, Awa and Kaga provinces, and 
primarily for presentation to officials. 


Work in soft metals — copper, brass, bronze and alloys. 


Skewer-like fitting worn in a housing within the katana 


Metal ring at scabbard entrance. 


Ornamented cap around the end of the scabbard . 


Early soft-metal work. 


Complete mountings of a sword. 


Small knife worn in a housing with the katana scabbard. 
Also used to refer to the kozuka hilt alone. 

Machi bori 

"Town carving"; sword fittings made by artists not at 

Maru bori 

Carving of figures in the round . 


A pin, usually of bamboo, which passes through 
openings in the sword hilt and blade tang, holding the 
tang firmly within the hilt. 


Small decorative ornaments attached to either side of the 
sword hilt. 


Rim of the tsuba. 


A matched set of kozuka, kogai and menuki. 


Metalworking technique that imitates wood gram. 



Taka zogan 

Relief inlay. 


Family crest. 


Metalworking design resembling the shape of 


The tang of a sword blade; the segment of the blade 
within the hilt. 


Literally, "southern barbarians"; term designating things 
of foreign origin. 


Literally, "fish roe"; surface texture technique consisting 
of producing regulariy spaced tiny elevated knobs. 


Tsuba style; tsuba made of hardened leather 

Niku bori 

Relief carving. 

Nunome zogan 

Literally, "cloth inlay"; gold leaf is hammered into cross- 
hatches on the surface of the fitting. 


Front side of the tsuba; the side which faces the hilt of 
the sword. 


Ray skin, used to cover sword hilt. 


A piece of metal, usually copper, fitted within the blade 
opening of tsuba to tighten the fit of the blade. 


Alloy of brass, tin and lead. 


Oval metal washers encircling the tang of the blade on 
either side of the tsuba. 


Flat, oval elevation surrounding the central opening on a 


Alloy of copper and gold; when treated, the alloy is blue- 
black in color. 


Alloy of copper and silver; when treated, the alloy is grey 
to brown in color 


Tsuba style; brass wire is wound around an iron tsuba 

Shishiai bori 

Sunken relief carving. 


Tsuba style; made in the shape a rice-cake would 
assume if squeezed in the hand, i.e. long, thin center 
and flared wider ends. 


Openwork carving. 


Curved single-edged sword worn edge down in a 
scabbard hung from cords. 


Dirk-like sword one foot or less in length. 


Literally, "iron bones"; the mixture of different qualities 
of iron produced small hard elevations, most easily 
discerned on tsuba rims; generally indicates hand 
forged, usually early ironwork. 


Iron tsuba with thick centers and thin rims, probably the 
product of swordsmiths. 


Hilt of the sword. 


Hammenng and gouging to produce surface texture on 


Two small openings in some tsuba for the passage of a 
cord which was then tied to the wrist. 


Reverse side of the tsuba; the side which faces the blade. 


Short sword one to two feet in length; usually paired with 
the katana. 


Unrefined copper. 



Tachi kanagushi 

TachI fitting maker 



ShItogI type 

Tsuba: Floral design 

Probably 12th century; yamagane, gold inlay 

7. 5X5.9 cm. (1936-4-381) 

KatchushI type 

Tsuba; Comet and cherry blossoms 
16th century; iron sukashi 
8.9X8.8 cm. (1936-4-18) 

Tosho type 

Tsuba; Gourds 

16th century; Iron sukashi 

8. 5X8.3 cm. (1936-4-384) 

Kyo-sukashi style 
Tsuba; Chrysanthemum crane 
17th century; iron sukashi 
8.5X8.3 cm. (1936-4-314) 

Kyo-sukashi style 
Tsuba; Iris and plum blossom 
17th century; iron sukashi 
8.0X7.9 cm. (1936-4-157) 

Owari school 

Tsuba; Paulonia leaf and family crest 
17th century; iron sukashi 
7.5X7.4 cm. (1936-4-1002) 

Kamakura school 

Tsuba; Pagoda, bridge, and mountains 

17th century; iron usu nikubori (low relief carving) 

9.4X9.4 cm. (1936-4-53) 


Onin school 

Tsuba; Chrysanthemums and a wheel 
17th century; iron, brass inlay (hon zogan) 
7.5X6. 9 cm. (1936-4-62) 



Heianjo style 

Tsuba; Paulonia branch 

Late 16th century; iron, brass inlay (hon zogan) 

8.7X8.7 cm. (1936-4-30) 


Heianjo style 

Tsuba; Morning glory vine 

17th century; iron, brass inlay (hon zogan) 

8.5X8.2 cm. (1936-4-33) 


Bizen Yoshiro style, early Edo 

Tsuba; Family crests 

Late 16th century; iron, brass inlay (hon zogan) 

7.2X7.2 cm. (1936-4-35) 


Saotome school 
Tsuba; Chrysanthemum 
17th century; iron sukashi 
10.2X10.2 cm. (1936-4-293) 


School of Nishigaki Kanshiro (probably 2nd master) 
Tsuba; Paulonia branch 
17th century; iron sukashi 
8.3X8.0 cm. (1936-4-307) 


Kanshiro school, Higo province 
Tsuba; Grass growing over relics left on a battlefield 
17th century; sentoku. with inlay, shakudo tukurin 
8.3X7.6 cm. (1936-4-145) 


Probably Akasaka school of Edo 
Tsuba; Moon, cricket, and torii (shrine gate) 
19th century; iron sukashi 
7.4X7.2 cm. (1936-4-330) 


Signed "Soheishi NyudoSoten," in the style of Hikone 

province, school of Soten 
Tsuba; Samurai on the march 
19th century; iron marubori, gilding 
8.4X8.1 cm. (1936-4-186) 


Jakushi school of (Nagasaki 

Tsuba; Amaterasu, the sun goddess 

18th century; iron, gold, shakudo m\a\/(nunonne zogan) 

8.5X7.9 cm. (1936-4-377) 


Kinai school 

Tsuba; Dragon and jewel 

Early 18th century; iron marubori 

7.7X7.5 cm. (1936-4-233) 


Kawaji Tomotomi (died 1754); 5th Kawaji master of 

Tsuba; A sahai, or military baton 
Early 18th century; iron marubori: gold zogan 
7.9X7.6 cm. (1936-4-351) 

20a, b 

Okamoto Toyonobu; 7th master of Okamoto school of 

Tsuba daisho: Peony and phoenix 
Mid-19th century; iron marubori 
7.6 X 7.3 cm; 7.3 X 7.0 cm. (1936-4-355,356) 


Nobuyuki, Ito school of Bushu 
Tsuba; Peony leaf and butterfly 
19th century; shakudo 
6.9X6.5 cm. (1936-4-253) 


Ito school 


19th century; shakudo and copper mokume 

3.8 X 2.3 cm.; 3.4 X 2 cm. (1936-4-1036) 


Ito school 

Soroimono (tsuba, kozuka and fuchi-kashira) 

19th century; shibuichi and copper 

a; 7.8X7.2 cm.; b; 11.4X1.9 cm.; c; 3.0X2.1 cm,; 

d:3.6X1.8cm. (1936-4-1001abcd) 


Namban style 

Tsuba; A collection of precious things 
19th century; iron nunome zogan 
7.5X7.4 cm. (1936-4-258) 


Sunagawa MasayoshI 
Tsuba: Dragon, clouds, and waves 
Early 19th century; iron shishiaibori 
7.6X7.2 cm. (1936-4-168) 


Sctiool of MItsustiiro in Yagame (Hizen province) 
Tsuba: "Ttiousand monkeys" 
Early 19th century; iron nikubori 
7.2X6.7 cm. (1936-4-247) 


Tenkodo Hidekuni (1825-1891), worked in Kyoto 
Tsuba: Drying fish nets in the evening 
Mid-19th century; iron, gold, and silver inlay 
2.0X7.8 cm. (1936-4-847) 


"Shingen" type 

Tsuba: A basket 

18th century; iron, brass winding 

11.3X11.2 cm. (1936-4-360) 


Kagamishi style 

Tsuba: An imaginary river animal; on the reverse, 

a fisherman in a small boat 
15th century; yamagane 
8.0X8.0 cm. (1936-4-130) 


Goto school 

Mitokoromono (kogai, kozuka, and menuki): Mizuhiki 

(cords used for tying up gifts) 
19th century; gold, shibuichi, shakudo, nanako surface 
a: 21.1 X 1.2 cm. ; b: 9.5X1.4 cm. ;c: 3. 5X1.4 cm.; 


Goto school 

Kozuka: Warriors in battle under the eye of their 

19th century; gold frame around shakudo insert (ji-ita) 
9.7X1.5 cm. (1936-4-469) 


Mitsumasa, Goto school 

Menuki: Leopard and tiger 

19th century; gold 

a: 3.6X1.6 cm.; b: 3.6X1.4 cm. (1936-4-421ab) 


Morimura Atsutaka 

Kozuka: The goddess Kwannon mounted on a dragon 

About 1850; copper and shakudo, gilding; reverse of 

shibuichi and gold zogan 
9.7 XI. 5 cm. (1936-4-390) 


Yeiju Hamidashi 

Tsuba: Dragon 

19th century; iron, gold lukurin 

5.4X3.7 cm. (1936-4-454) 


lsobelsshu(lchijo school) 
Tsuba: Golden snow; on reverse, moon and flowers 
Late 19th century; shakudo, gold zogan 
7.0X6.5 cm. (1936-4-413) 


Hirata school 

Kozuka: Children's toys 

19th century; copper, shakudo zogan , gold wire, 

cloisonne enamel 
9.8X1.6 cm. (1936-4-1124) 


Yanagawa school 

Menuki: Two samurai warriors on horseback 

18th century; shakudo, gilding 

a: 3.2 X 2.0 cm.; b: 3.2 X 2.0 cm. (1936-4-426ab) 


Signed "Omori Teruhide" (1730-1798) 

Fuchi-kashira: "Omori wave" 

Late 18th century; shibuichi 

a: 3.8 X 2.3 cm.; b: 3.5 X 2.1 cm. (1936-4-627ab) 


Signed "Hamano Noriyuki" (died 1787) 

Menuki: Kwan-Yu and Chohi 

18th century; shakudo, gilding 

a: 3.4 X 2.5 cm.; b: 3.3 X 2.7 cm. (1936-4-560ab) 


Koryuken Masanaga 

Kozuka: The Chinese Kwan-Yu and attendant 
About 1800; shakudo. gold, silver, and copper ^ogan 
9.7X1.5 cm. (1936-4-709) 


Awa province 

Kozuka: Plum and vine pattern 

19th century; iron, gold nunome zogan 

9.8X1.5 cm. (1936-4-1137) 


Bairiuken Kiyonaga, worked in Kyoto 
Tsuba: Pair of folding screens (Kenjo style) 
19th century; iron, gold nunomezogan 
7.7X7.1 cm. (1936-4-1142) 


Kaga province 

Kozuka: Weeping willow 

19th century; shakudo, gold, and silver zogan 

9.6 XI. 5 cm. (1936-4-974) 


Signed "Iwamoto Konkwan" (1755-1801) 

Tsuba daisho: Daikoku and a rat, and the god Ebisu 

and a sea bream 
18th century; shakudo, nanako surface, takazogan 
a: 7.7 X 7.2 cm; b: 7.0 X 6.5 cm. (1936-4-642,643) 


Ishiguro school 

Kozuka: Scarecrow dolls 

Late 18th century; shakudo, gold zogan, nanako 

9.8X1. 5cm. (1936-4-671) 


Signed "Katsukuni" 

Fuchi-kashira: The gods Benten (fuchi) and Bishamon 

Late 18th century; shakudo, takazogan, gold 
a: 3.9 X 2.4 cm.; b: 3.4 X 1.7 cm. (1936-4-962ab) 


Mito school 

Tsuba: Shoki, the demon-queller, and the demon Oni 

19th century; iron nanako surface 

6.9X6.5 cm. (1936-4-774) 

Cooper-Hewitt Museum 

2 East 91st street 
New York, NY 10028 




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